Press release

Oxford hosts The Identity Project

As part of a nationwide tour of activity from the Wellcome Trust, The Identity Project arrives in Oxford this month. A series of exhibitions, talks and films exploring who we are and what influences our thinking and understanding of human identity will take place throughout the summer at venues across the city.

The Identity Project launched in November of last year with ‘Identity: Eight rooms, nine lives’ - a major temporary exhibition at Wellcome Collection in London. Throughout 2010 the project is travelling across the country with exhibitions, events and experiences encouraging debate and discussion about how well we will ever be able to know ourselves.

The Oxford season kicks off on 13 May 2010 at the Michael Pilch Studio with a performance of 'Interior Traces' - a play exploring how our images and imaginings of the brain might radically change medicine, law and our sense of self.

This is followed by a performance of 'The Lion's Face' - the acclaimed new opera from The Opera Group offering an original and heartfelt view of ageing and dementia - at Oxford Playhouse on 23 May 2010.

A screening of 'Nature's Great Experiment' - a short film looking at twin studies - will take place at Modern Art Oxford on 24 June 2010, including an audience discussion with filmmaker Jordan Baseman and Professor George Ebers from the Wellcome Trust Centre of Human Genetics.

The events will be accompanied by a series of talks to be held at Science Oxford Live throughout the summer, exploring themes including memory and personality, genes and humanity, and identity and human culture.

Oxford is famous the world over for its thriving community of global thought leaders working at the forefront of international research.

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, comments: "After successes in London, Dundee and across the UK, The Identity Project in Oxford promises to be a scintillating experience. With Oxford's rich history of intelligentsia and debate, it offers the perfect backdrop to explore questions of identity and what makes us who we are".

Dominic McDonald, Head of Public Engagement and Business Networks, says: "We are delighted to be working with the Wellcome Trust this summer on this amazing season of events. We know that people are fascinated by questions of personality, humanity and individuality, and so we are looking forward to bringing the science of Identity to the people of the city."

The timing of The Identity Project is significant. 2010 marks the tenth anniversary of publishing of the first draft of the Human Genome Project. Referred to as the 'book of life', it promised greater scientific insight into our identity than ever before. As we approach the anniversary of this scientific breakthrough, what has it contributed to our understanding of our own identity?

Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, says: "The Wellcome Trust supported the sequencing of a third of the human genome. We are now supporting research into understanding how variation in the sequence of the genome between different people is associated with variation in health and disease. This work is identifying inherited differences between people in some of the important pathways that influence the risk of development of conditions such as obesity, diabetes and cancer."

"The Identity Project explores these themes plus many more surrounding our understanding of our identity."

The Identity Project culminates in June 2010 with the reopening of the Science Museum's 'Who Am I?' gallery in the Wellcome Wing in the week the world celebrates ten years since the sequencing of the human genome.

Identity Project events in Oxford
Play: Interior Traces
Michael Pilch Studio
13 May 2010, 19.30, £7/£5
A live performance of a radio drama exploring how new ways of seeing the brain might change how we see ourselves. Followed by a post-show discussion with ethicists and neuroscientists.

Opera: The Lion’s Face
Oxford Playhouse
23 May 2010, 19.30, £24.50/£21.50/£17.50
An opera exploring the experiences of dementia through the eyes of patient, carer and research scientist.

Film: Nature’s Great Experiment
Modern Art Oxford
24 June 2010, 19.00, free
A film in three parts, which explores the experiences of twins and (primarily) the mothers of twins, through case-studies, interviews, archive footage and drawings. The film will be followed by a question and answer session with the filmmaker, Jordan Baseman.

Discussion: The Impact of Alzheimer's
Science Oxford Live
1 July 2010, 19.30, free
The film 'Ex Memoria' (MIA Films) will provide a starting point for discussion led by Science Oxford staff, focusing on the impact of Alzheimer's disease on individuals, families and society.

Discussion: A Culture of Difference
Science Oxford Live
8 July 2010, 1930, £3/free
Anthropologist Prof. Joy Hendry from Oxford Brookes University leads a discussion of how different cultures tackle questions of identity and individuality.

Discussion: Working at the Edge
Science Oxford Live
15 July 2010, 1930, £3/free
Dr Domenico di Ceglie from Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation describes his work with young people whose gender identities have developed in unusual ways. Followed by a discussion on how we can help those who don’t fit easily into society's usual 'female' and 'male' categories.

Discussion: The Me in Memory
Science Oxford Live
29 July 2010, 19.30, £3/free
Dr Carinne Piekema from Oxford University discusses how our memory works and what happens when it goes wrong.

Discussion: Decoding Human History
Science Oxford Live
5 August 2010, 19.30, £3/free
Professor Gil McVean from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics discusses what genetics can tell us about how and why different modern human populations differ from each other, and what that might mean for Homo sapiens today and in the future.

Discussion: The Law of the Beehive
Science Oxford Live
12 August 2010, 19.30, £3/free
Local beekeeper Chris Richmond rounds off the 'Identity' season by explaining how honeybee society works, exploring whether they can tell us anything about our own society